<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Hung Lee on: the future of recruitment</span>

Hung Lee on: the future of recruitment

  • 41 minutes
  • Emerging Trends, Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 12

Are the way companies hiring today at stake? In this episode of How We Hire, the pioneer and community curator behind the newsletter Recruiting Brainfood, Hung Lee, discusses the ever-shifting recruitment industry, how talent acquisition teams can adapt, and why he thinks the concept of full-time employment will become less relevant in the future.

Key takeaways

  • Why recruiters should have a more prominent seat at the table

  • The pitfalls of a universal hiring system

  • How the culture around hiring is slowly shifting- and how organisations can adapt

  • Why AI in recruitment is the future

On the show

Hung Lee How We Hire Podcast
Hung Lee Founder, Recruitment Expert, and Curator at Recruiting Brainfood
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs
Tove Hernlund
Tove Hernlund Events & Community Manager at Alva Labs

Hung Lee

Hung Lee is the editor of industry leading newsletter, Recruiting Brainfood and founder of the online recruiting platform WorkShape.io. Hung has over twenty years of experience in agency recruitment and HR. 

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.

Tove Hernlund

Tove Hernlund moderates and hosts weekly webinars and workshops for the public, aiming to help spread knowledge and insights on key HR and TA topics like diversity and inclusion, hiring trends, and ROI in recruitment.


Show notes

  • Introduction-1:05

  • Why Hung started Recruiting Brainfood-1:55

  • Biggest takeaways and learnings from running a newsletter-3:53

  • Most important area to refresh someone's mind on in recruitment-5:05

  • Is knowing too much as a recruiter a thing?-6:02

  • Why there's reluctance in changing the way we think about recruitment-7:43

  • What the fundamental purpose of recruitment is -9:30

  • Why involving talent acquisition teams is the turnkey solution to picking the right candidates-11:35

  • Why we're still focusing on the wrong metrics to indicate a hiring success-13:41

  • Where are we heading in recruitment? 14:59

  • Expanding the scope of what TA means-18:00

  • How hiring less full-time employees is the future trend-20:39

  • Why recruiters should have a big seat at the table with change management- 23:11

  • Why there's no universal recruitment planning process we can adhere to-26:08

  • Universal hiring system feels fair but sometimes it isn't-29:20

  • A human being will never be a fair assessor of another human being, but the ways of hiring can help with fairness-32:33

  • Diversity in recruitment approaches leads to more types of solutions-32:55

  • To enact change, culture around hiring needs to shift- 35:51

  • AI in recruitment is inevitable in future for how decision making will be made- 37:10

  • Are human beings as biased as AI tools?- 38:48 

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How We Hire Podcast: Episode 12 Transcript

Linnea Bywall (00:00):

I'm both really excited and really upset at the same time, because I love what you say, that as long as you stick to something and are honest about that, then you can pretty much do whatever. I love that fact. And then I want to kind of creep out of my skin with this, just basing it on luck. But I see the point of hiring has been broken for a long time.

Tove Hernlund (00:30):

Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs.

Tove Hernlund (00:33):

With me, Tove Hernlund.

Linnea Bywall (00:34):

And me, Linnea Bywall.

Tove Hernlund (00:36):

This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. Every episode, we will speak to thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practice within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.

Tova Hernlund (00:55):

Welcome to another episode of How We Hire with me, Tove, events and community manager at Alva Labs.

Linnea Bywall (01:00):

And me, Linnea. Head of people.

Tove Hernlund (01:02):

And our guest on today's episode, we're really, really happy to have Hung Lee with us. Hung is the editor of industry leading weekly newsletter, Recruiting Brainfood, founder of the online recruiting platform Workshape.io. And on top of that has over 15 years of in-house and agency recruitment experience. Hung is really a powerhouse in himself and an inspiration to so many in the recruitment industry. So welcome to How We Hire, Hung.

Hung Lee (01:25):

Hey everybody, great to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Tove Hernlund (01:29):

Yeah, we're so excited to have you with us. And our biggest focus today is really going to be trying to look into the future, something that people try to do all the time and hardly ever succeed at, but we're going to try our best. But we really have to start off in a slightly different direction by discussing your newsletter. So Recruiting Brainfood, you reached thousands of readers today. Where did this idea come from? Originally, what led you down this path of starting this newsletter, Hung?

Hung Lee (01:55):

So that's an interesting question because I actually don't know the answer to that anymore. There's two competing origin stories and I actually don't know which one is true because I think maybe they're both true in some strange way. So the first way to look at it would be like the internet got too big. So back in 2013, '14, by that time almost everyone was on every social network and everyone was posting everything. The information density was just immense. So anybody who was paying attention to what was going on out there and wanted to learn something, I found it increasingly difficult to do because for every great article that actually had some value to you, you had to go through 20 clicks to different articles and then be disappointed. So I ended up basically just organizing, collecting, identifying places where great stuff came from and I think maybe I'm a taxonomist at heart in some way.


It's interesting you called Linnea, I was thinking Carl Linnaeus here, just sticking things into order. And I was quite disciplined in doing that with all of these articles I collected, until it got to a point where I had a really quite useful resource that I could retrieve information that was really relevant for recruiters. And that's when I thought, you know what, if I had this problem, then maybe other people would also have this issue. Would it make sense to somehow open this up and have other people get value from it? Kind of not any extra work. I'm doing it anyway. So if other people had some value from it, great. If not, then no worries. And that's when I thought of maybe doing it via a newsletter would be a good thing. So that's version one of how Recruiting Brainfood might emerged. Version two was like okay, just the hedge against GDPR, because I wanted to hustle up some new customers for workshape. That could have been that as well. I don't know.

Linnea Bywall (03:38):

Both are good stories. I mean with so many subscribers, you obviously provide value and for recruiters, helping them be better every day. But what would you say, what do you get out of it? What's your biggest takeaways on learnings?

Hung Lee (03:53):

One of the things I think is definitely true is that recruiters I think are very... they're generally quite smart people, but the job I don't think always makes use of the intellectual potential of recruiters. In other words, the job can be very mechanical, it can be very monotonous at times. And I just think that that's actually a waste and potentially damaging, because if you're doing things that are repetitive over time, it can be mentally draining and you can be demoralized very quickly and so on.


So I call it Recruiting Brainfood for a reason because I want to try and provide intellectually nourishing content, so to speak. So something that is just going to help people think a little bit. I think that helps them at the beginning of the week. Maybe some things are practical, maybe some things will cause individuals to think a bit deeper or think again on certain topics. But in the end, it's all about just refreshing the mind. So yeah, I think that's what I get out of it. I mean, I get out of it from my own sort of stimulation and it's great to see other people get value from it. So that is its own reward in many respects.

Linnea Bywall (04:57):

And what would you say is the most important area to refresh one's mind on when you're recruiting today?

Hung Lee (05:03):

I don't think there's any one area, to be honest with you. I think there's a number of topics that brain typically covers. There's about 20 topics people, a sharp eye and kept aware of. They cover most of the aspects of recruiting. And oftentimes, it's the stuff that we have already stopped thinking about that has the most interesting components. So in other words, some of the more accepted or conventional truths that we have in recruiting, oftentimes you might find a bit of information that would challenge some of those realities, and that itself is a good way to just keep some liquidity into the mind and make sure that's like a living brain is a living thing and not just a record of facts and figures.

Linnea Bywall (05:44):

I like that. I mean I guess that's true for more than recruiters, but keeping challenging the current truths will probably be the most important aspect moving forward.

Hung Lee (05:54):

Yeah, I think so.

Linnea Bywall (05:55):

Is there a situation where you can be too informed where you know too much as a recruiter?

Hung Lee (06:02):

I think that's definitely true. Yep. I think there's a limitation to how important information is, because the information doesn't necessarily produce actions. The opposite of action is to overthink. We know the term over analyze. Certainly, we can do over due diligence for instance, that prevents action. So a good example most recently is of course Elon Musk at Twitter. You can look at and observe him from the outside and you can say, "Wow, this guy's literally burning this down." That is zero due diligence. He didn't do any due diligence buying the thing. He didn't do any due diligence firing half the people. Didn't do any of the due diligence.


What he is doing though is creating action, right? He's changing it. So he could have spent six months doing due diligence and then another six months, once he's in there doing more due diligence, then starts acting as a year gone already. So he's just piled in and thought "I'm changing right here, right now." So that's kind of an example of a person who is prepared to make any change so long as there is change and it's an information light way of action. So he is the opposite example but still underlines the point that you cannot sit there and just absorb information and actually freezes you and stops you from doing anything. So yeah, absolutely right. You can have too much.

Tova Hernlund (07:22):

From your long experience, would you say that there's also been a lot of change or is recruitment one of those areas where people are... don't really dare to take action because that's our experience, at least in some areas that there can be some reluctance in changing the way we think about recruitment?

Hung Lee (07:40):

Yeah, I think so. I mean the recruitment is fundamentally quite a straightforward activity, and you can understand why there's conservatism in that because there's some basic components that seem always to be the same and you can optimize these individual components. But it's rare to see organizations radically change some of these processes and remove some of them and completely rethink how it all works.


A good example would be an organization that practices open hiring for instance. This is again a zero due diligence attempt to recruit, and it's again the opposite of everything that we do. So you don't interview, you don't do CVs, you just hire people if they want it and then figure it out from there. Some sort of rejection of due diligence, which I've got a lot of sympathy for, because due diligence oftentimes is just cowardice. You're like, here's the decision you want to make. You just throw in a bunch of stuff in the middle because you want that stuff in the middle to be responsible for the decision. Because you can say, "We made the end bad outcome, but you know what? We did all the due diligence so it can't be my fault." But in the end it's like someone's decision, a human decision, unless we algorithmically must start making decisions, correct? But in the end, still it's a human being making that decision. So yeah, it's oftentimes difficult to accept that full responsibility.

Linnea Bywall (08:59):

I think that's really, really interesting because I mean I agree with the fact that at the end of the day, we have to make a decision and I can definitely see how a lot of organizations are trying to measure the same things over and over again to just really be sure. And you can probably never be a hundred percent sure. Is that not also the job of the recruiter to make sure that the input that we're making the decision on is as good as possible?

Hung Lee (09:26):

The bottom line is recruiting is oftentimes top of funnel generating the options. Within recruitment, we might like to think that our role is a little bit more expansive than all of this, but you boil everything away to the absolute fundamental purpose of recruitment, is I need a person that's going to help me acquire 5,000 candidates that then convert into a hundred hires. That's fundamentally what the job is. So the job actually may not be so much about doing the assessment, but more so about just getting the systems in place to be able to pipe those people in. And of course, supporting every sort of event as you go through it and every approach. In the end, people who are making decisions, yes, no typically are still hiring managers, they're still in the line and there's always that little bit of conflict or tension between recruiters and the line as to who makes that decision.


Some organizations do do it differently, but I think you can actually separate those organizations very clearly if the role of deciding who gets the job is located within talent acquisition. Now, there's very few companies or organizations that actually have that structure. In fact, there's only two types of organization really that have that structure, that is professional services organizations. They typically have a talent function that just recruits the talent in that they don't then manage, right? Because the job is just simply acquisition of the talent. And sports organizations, you look at football clubs, they have a director of football, director of football acquires the talent or sets the systems up in place for talent to come in. They don't then manage the talent. That's the coach, that's the manager. Whereas most organizations, you still have the old school football manager person that does the recruiting and also does the management. And in that circumstance, I would say the job of the recruiter in that kind of company is to generate the options, basically.

Linnea Bywall (11:21):

So what I'm hearing is then that the recruiter needs to be a salesperson so they could get these people in and provide options. Is this the way that you think that the recruiter should spend their time? Is this how we get the most out of talented recruiter?

Hung Lee (11:35):

No. So my observation is of the current situation, I don't think that's the optimal situation. I actually think that we do need to move towards more of a situation where there is a talent acquisition function that genuinely is making the decisions in terms of who are the sorts of people that we want within our business, and not have the hiring managers have that sort of role. They should really be performance managers.


I think we're heading towards this direction generally because I think if you want to genuinely improve the quality of the people you bring into the organization, you do have to centralize it somewhat and take it away from the line. Because if you have it all distributed on the line management side, there's going to be huge variability as to the quality of the people based on the individual variability of the line managers. The optimal future would be to, for the recruiters to have more responsibility for the acquisition, but it's not a prediction that's going to happen.


You can understand from a line manager point of view that they want to acquire more responsibility in order to increase their status in company, increase their authority within the business and indeed that improves their compensation, improves their weight and stuff like this. So we have a lot of misaligned incentives within organizational structures which create these kind of emergent tensions.

Linnea Bywall (12:57):

I'm not sure I see the exact same pattern where the recruiters will only be basically sourcing, but I understand where you're coming from. I think in my opinion or a hunch would be that I think we have measured success in recruitment in the wrong way for too long. Focusing on time to fill, time to hire rather than quality, not taking as much responsibility of the actual outcome because the feedback loop of recruitment is quite long. What do you think? Why is it like this?

Hung Lee (13:29):

Well I think some of the metrics that we currently are just on is a manifestation of this relationship that we truly have within the organization. The reason why we still use things like time to fill, time to hire, cost per hire is because yes, the organization thinks that fundamentally that's our role. So then we have the rhetoric which disguises this a little bit. So we have sort of the internal kind of rhetorical universe which describes the role of this, that and the other. But I like to peel it down to the brass tax. If you strip everything away, what's the last function of a recruiter that you would take away for this person and still be the recruiter? It will be acquisition of external time.


So what we need to do as a function is to expand the scope of the role, but it'll also kind of renegotiate internally as to who actually owns the decision to say yes, no. And fundamentally, if you want to get into the abstract of it, what you want is to have the organization, the company, be the one where the decision to acquire talent is located. And that shouldn't be with the hiring manager because hiring managers cycle in and out of businesses, sort of recruiters cycle in out businesses. But it should be located within the organization, independent of any individual personal function. However, the custodian of that should be TA.

Linnea Bywall (14:45):

I think this is a really interesting discussion. And what would you, given you have a close ear to the ground on what's happening and will happen in recruitment, what would you say, where are we heading? What are the current trends, future trends, what do you see?

Hung Lee (14:59):

I think ultimately, the organizations are going to not grow to the size and scale that they have done before in the past. It's certainly not in terms of the relationship with full-time employees. So when we think about how big an organization is, typically we're counting people on payroll, we're counting people that we actually payroll. That's the size of the organization, that's the workforce population. We don't calculate at all the other people that interface or supply labor or skills into that organization.


However, that component of labor that comes into the organization that are off payroll is going to increase as organizations try to create a more flexible workforce. They try to marry a supply and demand internally in terms of labor and supply and demand. And that ultimately means less full-time employees.


So what this means for recruiters is we've got two choices. we've got a fork in a row, either we kind of stick to our universe, which is hiring full-time employees and we'll see our function shrink as a result of the shrinking interest of an organization acquiring full-time employees, or we expand our scope to say, "What we can do or what we should be doing is to supply the organization with the skills that the business needs when it needs it, irrespective of whatever conditions of employment these people might be in." And then suddenly, it expands the role entirely. Suddenly, things like talent acquisition, the term no longer actually makes sense because you're not acquiring the talent, you may just be borrowing it or you may be finding some other way of getting it into the organization or that supply in a different fashion.


So we've got a choice as an organization. We've had this kind of fork in a row for a long while actually, but it seems that the world is accelerating with us or without us, right? So we better make a really strong case to start getting involved in some of these decisions. The people who are listening to this, I'll say, okay, have a think internally within your business, are you the person making decision as to whether you engage an offshoring plan? Do you get involved with that? Yes, no. Are you the person that thinks, "Oh yeah, we could actually use gig workers for this or do you find that out later on?" And is your focus still about people on payroll? That will tell you exactly where you sit in your organization. And if it's all still payroll, I'd say it should be a little bit of a red flag kind of appearing.

Linnea Bywall (17:18):

So there's something around being more part of the decision-making, but there's also something about expanding the scope of what TA means. And I think one quite a follow-up question I would have is based on my discussions I've had in the past with external recruiters, but also managers, is that when it comes to those gig works and more short term, the thought is that it has to be so quick that there's no way that we can actually evaluate who we get in. Would you say that that's true or because we don't want to involve talent acquisition in it?

Hung Lee (17:59):

I think it's true if we kind of apply the full-time employee model to try and process someone who isn't a full-time employee. Part of our issue is that we have based everything we do as if everyone is a full-time employee. And not only that, but we base it on the fact that they're also on site and permanent workers. So if you think about the structures of things we do, the events we impose on people, even the systems we build, they're all based on the default model of the person that's going to be coming onto a premise, be working full-time for us, no one else, and be full-time as an employee.


So all of those three things may no longer be sure. And in fact that means that we need to reinvent a lot of the processes that we're talking about. I think currently. I can totally understand the hiring manager saying, "Look, there's no way we're going to pipe this contractor into this flow because we know this flow takes 30 days, 60 days to get through." I think all of us recognize that doesn't make sense.


So one of the tasks that recruitment has is to really create a variable ways of assessment, a processing based on the conditions of the employment of the person that we bring in. That'd be very different. But right now, I don't see that many organizations having developed these protocols or developed these contingencies and it makes sense why they haven't because we're still directed towards full-time.


Typically, what will occur is that when an organization at some level says, "Look, we're going to hire 50% full-time, 50% elsewhere," the elsewhere is just dealt with by another function or dealt with, distributed within the hiring managers or something else. And then TA has been forced to double down on just that 50% they're dealing with, which becomes their 100% and they have to do all kinds of stuff to do all of that.


So that's generally where we're at. My argument is we actually need to try and absorb or expand our scope, take on all of it. I think that puts us in a better position as a function, but I think we'll also deliver better value to the organization as a result because it means that we'll be able to advise organizations, advise CEOs how best to solve that resourcing problem. So yeah, it's an exciting time for us, but we've got grasp the opportunity or take the risk.

Tova Hernlund (20:12):

If this is what we're seeing in the future and companies are dividing it up between gig workers and full-time employees, would you also say that this will have an impact on how we hire full-time employees? Because if the organizations get used to having a much shorter process but still a more organized process for gig workers, would you say that, is there reason to keep the two apart or is it better to just optimize for a fast recruitment regardless of the type of employee?

Hung Lee (20:38):

Yeah, I think so. I think there's certain type. We're going to hire increasingly less full-time is my opinion. It's too high risk for the employer, it's too much effort. It comes with all kinds of additional requirements because the elevated responsibilities or the elevated expectations of candidates are really up there. And employer ultimately is going to look at it and think, "You know what, not only do we need to hire full-time employees and ask them take a risk, but we also need to take care of their career. We need to give L&D. We need to make sure they stay with us. We need to make sure they're emotionally happy. We need to make sure..." all these types of things.


And eventually, the cost of doing that is going to be outweighed by the value that person provides. And it's like, "Okay, why don't I just get this person to do this particular task?"


So I think what will happen is a lot of jobs, quote unquote, "jobs," will get disaggregated into modular tasks. And once you disaggregate a job into tasks, then you can offshore or you can automate it or you could get somebody who isn't full-time to just execute on these functions.


Where this sort of doesn't work is when there's certain types of job where there is a, let's say, a customer service angle, where the responsibilities is to deal particularly with a human being that requires a sort of nuance that's difficult to modulate, whether there's some sort of creativity required, but I'm kind of skeptical of how much creativity sometimes is required for a lot of the functions that we're doing in the business of work. Everyone's sitting there dreaming up new systems and projects and what have you, and you can't have that many dreamers, right?


So I think that ultimately the future direction of travel will be increasingly less full-time employees and increasingly more everything else. And here is where we're starting to philosophically look at is the future of the company actually coming to an end? Because what if we get to a point where it actually makes no sense to hire anybody full time? It's much better just interact with people on their own terms and just buy from a menu of services from people that you can trust to deliver those services and then get rid of all of the cultural overhead, the managerial overhead required to organize a business. Doesn't that make sense? And then we might actually be getting to that point where, yeah, sure, maybe the company's coming to a final end.

Linnea Bywall (22:54):

And if anyone's listening now and freaking out, because they did not check the list, where, "Am I included in the offshoring decisions" and stuff like that, what would you tell those recruiters out there?

Hung Lee (23:08):

I would simply say get involved in that conversation. Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to be sort of guard railed into this is the thing, but we've got to be the one suggesting, "Hey, maybe we don't want to hire this person. We could sort this out in a different way." If we start being people in control of that decision, influencing and then control, then we'll be in much better shape. We can't be arguing just a higher, more full time, even though right now that's where our bread is buttered, so to speak, because we can see down the line that this is not where the future is.


This is true pre-COVID, by the way. There's lots of research done by all of these big consultancies where they kind of interviewed CHROs about what the workforce composition, their plan was as they were going forward. They would all try to reduce the overall percentage of full-time employees compared to everyone else, because they wanted greater flexibility.


COVID has massively accelerated this. Now with cost of living crisis and now with potentially recessionary environment going down in 2023, no question that will be like... There's almost two pedals to the accelerator and the future of the organizations will be a lot smaller. Facebook for instance, has just made 30% redundancies. They will never be the same size. They've already hit the peak size it'll ever be.

Linnea Bywall (24:26):

If that's true, then I would try to stay positive, argue that it will never be more important to be a great recruiter than before. Because if you're going to hire fewer people and do more with less, you're going to have to be really sure that you get the right people in. What do you think?

Hung Lee (24:45):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean all of this may sound pessimistic, but all it is is just predictable change. And what we have to do is the fact that we can predict this gives us the opportunity to reposition ourselves. And as I mentioned, what we need to do is really expand scope of the role. We need to expand beyond just thinking about full time. We need to be the people...


For instance, right now there's a huge demand for people who want to work part-time, or people who want to work multi-employer. Like, "Hey, I don't necessarily want to work just for you, because I've got this other company I like to work for." But yeah, they don't need full-time either. I want to do two days with both of those. Have we created any kind of structure that allows for this to happen? Answer's no, we're still dealing with that in a case by case. So okay, recruiters would probably need to think about how we get to a point where this type of person, which is going to be a growing demographic, can we create a system within our business to make us the ideal employer for this type of individual? So yeah, it's an exciting time.

Linnea Bywall (25:45):

So say that, I mean you listen to this and you make sure that you are part of the decision-making, you widen the scope, you prepare for this new way of working where it's easy to get in and get out. How would you plan a recruitment process that is suitable for that environment?

Hung Lee (26:06):

I would say there's no universal process. So there's kind of two kind of general approaches to this. Number one, you can universalize your recruiting approach, which I think most people still perceive to be the best way to do it. You still see companies that will say, "This is our way of recruiting," which tells me, okay, they've universalized their approach, which means that everybody goes through the same flow and the same process all the way through.


I think this is very positive on the one hand for things like consistency of brand, consistency of customer experience, probably easier to also manage in the sense of you can train your managers, train your recruiters and all this type of stuff to expect all of this. Also great for numbers and metrics, because everyone's going through the same sort of system.


However, it's a little bit of creating a system and then bending sort of people into a frame. And it also means you're going to lose out on a lot of people that either refuse to go into that frame or otherwise don't optimally go into this process. So the other way to do it is unfortunately a lot more work, but it's more work means good things for recruiters, is to create multiple ways and multiple processes, where you can have different sort of categories of how this person is expected to interact with the organization.


Full-time employee, you'd expect them to not work for anybody else, for instance. So full-time, that's it. But maybe someone who is working part-time for us and part-time for somebody else, that requires a different process. And it's up to us to design a process that works for us, works for the individual, and also provides the sort of metrics that we still need to understand our level of performance.

Linnea Bywall (27:41):

So what I hear you saying is that we need a bunch of different processes/ tools in our toolbox to be able to cater for the different needs, right?

Hung Lee (27:51):

Correct. Don't try and figure out on the fly, have it already in place. The first question you make is to say, "Right, is this job a certain type of job in the sense it needs to fit into this category?" For instance, is this definitely a full-time job or can this job be done in the job share, or can this job be done by a freelancer, or what have you? That's your first question. And then from that, you can start figuring out what the appropriate recruiting process is. And of course, if you've already prebuilt something, then you just deploy that process.

Linnea Bywall (28:23):

I'm all for a structured process, and I love the fact that you can have different processes for different scenarios and different use cases. But one thing that I think is really important is that everyone in the same process will go through the same process. Meaning, there's no purpose in having everything being the exact same form, like hiring an engineer to hiring a salesperson. But I do think it's really, really important for all the engineers for that job application or that process to go through the same step, because that's a way to evaluate everyone in a more efficient and especially fair way. But I'm guessing, you don't mean that you should do things differently for two candidates going for the same role.

Hung Lee (29:08):

I actually don't know. I mean, quite possibly you should, but then again, I'm a radical when it comes to this, right, in the sense that I think ultimately having a universalist system feel fair. Fundamentally, it feels fair. But sometimes it isn't. You look at the world of crime, for instance. We would like to think everyone is treated the same for the eyes of the law. You commit this crime, it's the same objective crime, but therefore the application of the penalty is the same.


However, I would argue that's incorrect. I disagree with how most legal systems work. I think that's incorrect. I think we should absolutely consider the individual and what's going on in his or her life that's created the situation to occur. So for instance, someone robs a shop. You know what, someone who's homeless trying to feed her family or whatever, and robs a shop, I would actually have a different set of rules. I would take that information and ingest it into the decision-making process in order to come up with a different outcome compared to someone who just thought, "Yeah, sure. Can't be asked, I'll just steal this stuff." Different things, even though objectively same crime.


So you move into the world of recruitment and you can say, "Hey, let's treat everyone the same way, theoretically okay. But what if you have a person that is priorly known to the rest of the team, would you treat this person exactly the same in the process? Again, some people might say, "The justice system would say yes," I would say unrealistic. Stop pretending, right? There's no way you're going to ignore the fact you've got social capital, social history with this person. That needs to be explicit. You need to raise that to the front. And if you end up making a nepotistic decision, then go ahead and do that. But at least be honest with it.

Linnea Bywall (30:44):

And if I can hijack your example of the legal system, because I don't think... I mean, there are a lot of studies showing that different people won't get the same punishment for the same crime committed basically because we, or the legal system, assess them differently, not necessarily because of, to your example, their life situation, but maybe based on the color of their skin. And I think, that's probably an example where it's difficult to [inaudible 00:31:16]-

Hung Lee (31:16):

Well I would argue the reason why that bias exist is because you pretend it doesn't, right? The reason why for instance, if you are from an ethnic out group, you tend to get a higher penalty, is because we assume the law is equal. We should just get rid of the assumption. It's almost like saying, "Yes, we are going to objectively be honest." No, you're a human being. You're going to supply your subjectivity into this situation. There's no outcome that is going to be objective.


So it's much more honest to say that you cannot be objective. And it's much more honest I think in the legal system to say, "Look, we're going to consider every single aspect of you as a person and your interaction with the rest of society to be able to make this decision." And I think fundamentally, our leaf in these objective systems, quote unquote, "objective systems," is the root cause of injustice.

Linnea Bywall (32:05):

And I agree with the fact that a human being will never be a fair assessor of another human being, and that the way that we make hiring decisions very often will be biased, and it's impossible to completely remove it. But I do think that some ways of hiring can actually help, especially if you do apply structure and assess people on the same grounds that are relevant for the position. But I'm guessing that you maybe don't agree with me, right?

Hung Lee (32:40):

It's interesting conversation this one, Linnea. I think it doesn't matter that much either way. One thing I'd like to see, we are seeing some elements of this. I love to see a diversity of recruiting approaches because I think that all of this just leads to more different types of solutions to this issue. I would imagine most people want to recruit or people or to an organization in order for the organization to succeed. I think there's many different routes to this success, but those what is successful in one context will not be successful to the other. So the fact that some individuals go and have a zero due diligence approach, do it that way. It's called recruitment nihilism, right? It's basically the idea, "Look, there's no due diligence I can possibly do that can reduce the risk." Look at all the entire market that's doing all the due diligence, how much bad hiring is going on, right? So what is the point? It's faster for me, just throw the dice, roll the dice and just hire who I want and then just fire who I want.


There's a guy in the UK who used to be the owner of a football club I support, Newcastle United. Mike Ashley, hated by the fans. The fan absolutely hated him. I loved him. I thought he was great. Why? Because he did zero due diligence. He just literally said, "Look, gut feel. Yeah, he's my guy." And I was thinking, right, at least he has a philosophy. This is not my approach, but he has a clear philosophy. He rejects due diligence. So okay, anybody who joins Newcastle or joins this organization understands here is the leader that rejects due diligence. We're going to do a gut play, fine.


There's other people that want to be more scientific, they want to do much more use of tooling, much more use of assessments. Again, great. It's almost the first part of the self assessment the candidate needs to go through is that what sort of business you want to be involved in and how you want to operate.


So yes, the answer is I think all of it is great. Diversity of solutions is great, and the stuff that Alva Labs do is also great because this provides, I think, additional toolkit for a lot of those organizations that reject the gut play, and want to apply, want to improve... The reason why the gut play is recruitment nihilism is because there's a fundamental presumption that they can't ever improve on what is a risk. Whereas, most people are a little bit more optimistic and they feel they can improve the risk or improve the percentage chance of success by reducing risk, should I say.

Linnea Bywall (35:07):

I mean I'm both really excited and really upset at the same time, because I love what you say, that as long as you stick to something and are honest about that, then you can pretty much do whatever. I love that fact. And then I want to kind of creep out of my skin with this, just basing it on luck. But I see the point of hiring has been broken for a long time and therefore there are so many bad hires. And giving up is, of course, a way to move forward. And as long as you're transparent with it, I will respect it, but I wouldn't recommend it, I guess.

Hung Lee (35:45):

It's potentially more efficient, but you need to have a higher fire culture for that to work. So for instance, Elon Musk could not do what he's doing in France. That approach does not work because basically everyone has great employee protections and it wouldn't operate, which probably would mean a French-based Elon Musk could end up probably not hiring any full-time employees at all, and just hiring contractors because he won't stand through the hire and fire, right? So again, what is the legislative environment that you're in?


But I think that nihilism doesn't work for a lot of people because it is kind of depressing in certain ways, going, "Oh my God, are we sure we can't get better at this?" And there probably is ways in which you can incrementally get better, but the question is the trade-off. So how much are you going to invest in this effort in order to incrementally get better?


And that I think is still in the balance because you observe things like average tenure of employee, for instance. If the tenure of employee actually gets shorter and shorter, then the more attractive, the nihilistic approach will be because they're investing far less in due diligence. So they're getting... Whereas someone who's investing huge amount due diligence, but getting shorter and shorter tenure from employees, eventually you're going to be out-competed. In the open marketplace, you'll get beat because the organization's a bit more efficient than you.

Linnea Bywall (37:04):

I do have one more trend I would like to hear you elaborate a bit on, I mean, AI in recruitment, yay or nay? What's your thought on that?

Hung Lee (37:14):

I'm a yay.

Linnea Bywall (37:15):

You're a yay? In what way?

Hung Lee (37:16):

In every way. And again, this is again sort of, you've encouraged me to take contrarian positions, guys, so I'm fully prepared to get flamed by anybody who listens to this. But fundamentally, I think AI is the inevitable future for how a lot of decision-making is going to be made. I think yes, we can understand there's been challenges with the implementation of AI in many, many cases, and there's conspicuous examples that have produced some egregious sort of outcomes, which rightfully, we can go ahead and condemn.


However, I think it'll be very wrong for us to try and eliminate the use of AI in recruitment. Suddenly enough, we'll start to see some of this happening and appearing in legislation, whereby that there's been a hostility towards the use of technology of this way. And I think that is shortsighted because it sits on a premise that the human, a hundred percent human managed recruitment process, is bias free, which we, of course we know is not the case.


So I was thinking particularly in New York, which seems to be quite aggressive in saying, "Right, if you're building technology that has an AI component that's used in recruitment, essentially you need to disclose this, this, and this to the candidates, they need to have this, this and this information, basically enough friction for this industry even to not exist." I'm thinking, what does that mean? That means it goes back to human beings. And we've already seen that human beings are less efficient and as biased as any AI. So I'm a pro, when it comes to the implementation of AI, I would defend it on that basis. The benchmark should be flawed human beings, not pristine human beings.

Linnea Bywall (38:56):

We've talked a lot about how to huddle up best recruiters and prepare ourselves for what's coming. Is there anything else that you want to send home to the listener? What should they do or not do moving forward?

Hung Lee (39:09):

We're going to be asked to do more of less going forward. So where previously we would have a team of 100 people doing recruiting, oh, now it's going to be a team of 60 people doing recruiting, which ultimately means we need to be able to use technology at an individual level to be able to get faster at lots of things.


So I would say currently a lot of AI is located in enterprise level software. So I'm not talking about this. I'm talking about an individual recruiter using consumer grade tools that are AI-driven in order to be a lot faster than your competition.


This year, I think has really been the year of generative AI, which is people being able to create copy, people being able to create images, be able to create even video with human text. Now, I think recruiters need to be really good at all of these tools, because suddenly, you'd be able to duplicate the functions of a creative department in marketing. Suddenly, you'd be able to become a copywriter using the AI, and then coming forward and not only being an attractive person to bring into a business, but because of their personal skills, because they also bring in a fleet of these AI technologies that they could deploy and say, "You know what? I could do half this department stuff for you." That, I think, is how recruiters could become super marketable in the near future.

Linnea Bywall (40:25):

That, I am subscribing to Recruiting Brainfood, right?

Hung Lee (40:27):

I hope you the help a little bit. I'm not this depressing on the newsletter. Yeah.

Tova Hernlund (40:33):

Good to know. No, but ending, still ending this discussion on a positive note then, there are things for recruiters to do in order to make sure that they stay relevant going forward as well.

Hung Lee (40:43):

Recruiters are just fundamentally very resilient people. I don't think you could do this job without having that sense of resilience. So we've just got to tap into that, confront this world that we see it with the right amount of energy and enthusiasm, and we're going to come out winning.

Tova Hernlund (40:57):

Thank you so much for joining us, Hung. It's been such a pleasure having you with us, and so many insights, so much to both look forward to and maybe prepare for when it comes to the future.


Me and Linnea will be back with another inspiring episode of How We Hire in two weeks. Make sure to subscribe via Spotify or Apple Podcasts to never miss an episode. And if you think two weeks is too long, make sure to check out alvalabs.io for all our webinars and training sessions as well. Bye for now.